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Painting &

Discover how to choose the right paint type and tools, prepare the surface correctly, and create a professional finish whether you’re decorating walls and ceilings, masonry and metal inside or out.

Tool List
  • Stepladder with platform and handle
  • Long ladders
  • Extension ladders
  • Access towers
  • Scrapers
  • Filling knives
  • Wire brush
  • Electric heat gun
  • Abrasive papers
  • Dry brush
  • Selection of paint brushes
  • Rollers, roller sleevesand trays
  • Paint kettle
  • White spirit
  • Cloths
Safety equipment
  • Face mask
  • Safety specs
  • Gloves
stay-safe.png Do not stand on stepladder platforms. Always use stepladders fully opened and with all four feet firmly on the floor. Never lean unopened ladders against a wall or other prop. Make sure ladders or access towers are set on firm, dry ground, and are ideally secured at the top for added security. Special precautions should be taken when sanding down surfaces painted before 1960 due to the possibility of lead in the paint. Use wetted Wickes’ Wet and Dry Sandpaper to reduce the potential risk. Do not place a hot gun on an easily damaged or flammable surface, do not touch the hot end, softened paint or scraper. Cover electrical fittings such as wall lights, switches and power sockets so that water cannot get near them; where possible, cut off the power supply at the consumer unit. If water does penetrate sockets, switches or connections, it can prove lethal.
Choose the right
paint for the job

The type of paint you need depends on both the surface to be covered and the conditions in the room.


Primers and undercoats should be applied to bare wood or metal before the trim paint, with the primer first (except Wickes’ Acrylic Based Primer Undercoat) and the undercoat next. Primer seals the timber and provides a key for later coats; undercoat provides an opaque layer of a similar colour to the top coat and levels minor imperfections in the timber below. Use Wickes’ Knotting Solution to treat knots, preventing yellow/brown patches or circles from bleeding through the paint, or use Aluminium Wood Primer on resinous hardwoods. Wood Primer or water based acrylic is for use on softwood and manmade boards, and is quick drying.


Water based paint (emulsion or acrylic paint) is used on walls, ceilings and trims. It will not yellow, is quick to dry and low odour. Acrylic water based paint is more durable than emulsion. Brushes can be cleaned in water and paint should be stored where it won’t freeze. Solvent based paint (oil based or gloss paint) is usually used for painting wood and metal trims both indoors and out, is hard wearing, breathable, flexible, moisture and weather resistant and easy to use. It can yellow over time; if this is a recurrent problem in your house, use water based acrylic instead. Brushes need cleaning in white spirit. Metal paint does not always need a primer. Formulated for use indoors and out, it can be sprayed or brushed on. Wickes’ Red Oxide Metal Primer is for use on iron and steel; Wickes’ Quick Drying Metal Primer can be used on other metals. Galvanised surfaces need a red oxide primer otherwise the paint will flake off.

Use the best tools

The tools you choose will be dependent on the scale of the job you are tackling and the type of paint you are using. Use our Kit List on page 1. It is preferable to use a scaffold or access tower, which allows far greater freedom of movement and is safer than a ladder, since you stand on a platform with space to move and lay out working materials. Towers with base dimensions of about 1200 x 600mm can also be used indoors when decorating stairwells.


When working up a ladder or scaffold tower, it is easier to haul up your working tools and the paint in a bucket on the end of a rope rather than carrying it up (see Fig. 1).


Choose brushes and rollers

Your selection will depend on the job you are doing as well as the type of paint


  Pure bristle brush* (solvent based paint) Synthetic bristle brush* (water based paint) Roller**
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Interior woodwork
  • Exterior woodwork
  • Metal
  • Masonry


*Use a wide brush (100 to 150mm) for emulsion paint and 38mm or 50mm for detailed work.
** Use a short pile or foam roller sleeve for painting emulsion on to smooth interior walls, and a longer pile sleeve for textured or rough surfaces.
Painting techniques

To calculate the amount of paint you need, measure the height and width of each wall in metres, and multiply to get the area, subtracting the area taken up by any doors or windows, then add the area of each wall together to get the total area. Check the coverage figure on the paint can and divide your total area by this figure.


Paint brush technique

Hold small brushes by the ferrule (the metal section below the bristles) for comfort and control. For larger brushes it’s generally easier to grasp the handle.



Using a paint roller

Load the roller by gently moving it backwards and forwards in the paint tray. Move the loaded roller quite slowly at first in one direction, spreading the paint out sideways by moving the roller diagonally, and finish off in the same direction as the first rolls with only light pressure on the roller (see Fig. 2). Cover an area of about one square metre at a time. Blend each painted section into the one before.


Drying times

The drying time given on the tin is a guide, but will vary subject to how the paint is applied and the atmospheric conditions. If it is very cold or humid, paint will take longer to dry; too hot, and the paint will dry quickly, leaving you with a potentially patchy finish.

When applied onto a non-porous surface, paint dries from the outside in. The first drying stage is ‘touch dry’, when the paint isn’t sticky to the lightest touch, but is still soft underneath. When the paint feels fully dry to the touch, this is the ‘dry time’ and is the earliest point at which the paint becomes recoatable without damage to the previous coat. However, the paint is continuing to harden, so do not wipe it clean for at least seven days after application. Some solvent based paints, depending on applied thickness, can take over a month to become fully dry.


Working in hot sunlight will prevent oil-based paints drying properly and allows water based paint to dry too quickly. Don’t paint if there is the risk of frost before new paintwork has dried. Use quick drying paints whenever possible if conditions are damp.


Mini rollers with foam sleeves can be used to apply water based acrylic gloss to woodwork. Achieve a good finish by quickly brushing over with a dry (non-loaded) synthetic brush, following the grain of the timber.

Decorate walls
and ceilings

For a professional looking finish, walls and ceilings must be cleaned and before painting begins.


Prepare walls and ceilings

Newly plastered walls should be left for a month before paint is applied. Use a coat of thinned emulsion of around 1 part water to 2 parts emulsion as a primer. If work has to be carried out prior to the plaster being fully dry, use paint for new plaster or matt emulsion.


Emulsion-painted walls and ceilings in good condition with no signs of flaking paint or other defects should be cleaned with sugar soap in warm water. Allow to dry before lightly sanding and repainting. If necessary, remove peeling or flaking emulsion with a scraper followed by a sander. Clean with sugar soap in warm water and leave to dry; if additional sections of emulsion lift while the wall is drying, remove by scraping and sanding. Silk-finish paint that has been directly applied to plaster needs lightly wet scouring with a plastic scouring pad and a sugar soap solution to remove its sheen and provide a good key. Rinse and allow to dry before lining the wall or repainting.


Use the blunt end of an old screwdriver to rake out minor cracks. Remove dust and loose particles, then apply filler, forcing it well into the cracks. Leave it slightly proud of the surface and sand level when dry. If a wall has minor surface imperfections such as lines between remaining emulsion paint and bare plaster that cannot be sanded down to a smooth edge, hang lining paper before repainting.


Papered walls in bad condition or those lined with a silk-finish paper will need the wallpaper removed. Soak with water, leave, and remove with a wide-bladed scraper. If the wall has layers of paint and wallpaper, use Wickes’ Steam Wallpaper Stripper. Clean off old paste residues until the surface no longer feels slippery using a sugar soap solution applied with a cloth or scrubbing brush. Vinyl wallcoverings that peel off to leave the backing paper in good condition on the wall can be used as a lining for paint or another wallcovering.


Paint walls and ceilings

If you’re painting a whole room, start with the ceiling and walls down to the picture rails or to the bottom of the covering. Then paint the walls. Only move on to doors, windows and skirting afterwards. Walls and ceilings will normally require two coats of emulsion if the colour is to be changed, or one coat if there is no change.


Paint an interior wall in vertical lines. If you are using a roller, you’ll need to paint corners with a brush and roller it out to leave an even texture. At external corners, let the brush run off the edge of the surface – brushing in the opposite direction will allow paint to collect on the edge and cause runs. At internal angles, brush paint well into the angle first, then brush it out parallel with the corner. Radiator rollers are useful for painting emulsion into corners and other awkward spaces.


Apply a thin coat of white paint over a smoothed, filled wall or ceiling surface and allow to dry. You can see and sort out any imperfections quickly.

Decorate timber doors, window
frames, skirting and trims

Sand, clean and strip as necessary before applying paint to wood.


Prepare timber doors, window frames, skirting and trims


Bare timber should be sanded smooth, cracks filled with wood filler and sanded flush. Remove excess resin from knots with white spirit, then seal with either Traditional Knotting Solution or Aluminium Wood Primer. Remove loose knots and either fill the holes or glue back in place. Outdoors, use an exterior grade filler or wood adhesive, and pre-treat surfaces that cannot be treated in place – for example, replacement fascia boards.


Previously painted timber in good condition can be washed with water and Wickes’ Sugar Soap to remove some of the gloss, or sanded gently with a fine-grade glass paper. Check around the joints, for hairline cracks or surface bubbling. Small areas can be sanded back to leave only paint in good condition, the bare wood primed, then, when dry, sanded to blend with the old paint film. If the paint has flaked in patches, you may be able to repair it. But if the surface has broken down – particularly outdoors – exposing the timber to moisture, strip it back, make good, and start from scratch. Oil-based paints can be sanded off with a flat base, powered orbital sander or removed with a hot air or chemical stripper. Chemical stripper should be brushed on to the paint surface, left to soften the paint, then scraped off taking the remaining stripper and softened paint.  



Wash and dry the surface thoroughly afterwards. Keep chemical strippers away from PVCu surfaces, vinyl flooring and anything plastic. If you are working near these, mask off with a good quality tape and quickly wipe away any overspill.


Hot air strippers will crack glass, melt PVCu window frames and vinyl flooring, and if held in place too long, will set paint and flammable surfaces alight. Practice first and, as with chemical strippers, wear gloves, eye protection and long sleeves.


Make good stripped timber surfaces Use a penknife blade to test the hardness of the timber. If the blade penetrates easily, it is likely to be rotten and must be treated. If possible, cut away the affected timber, and treat what is left with a preservative, filling in the gaps. Replace large areas of missing timber with new treated timber, cut to shape and bedded in filler. If the rot has spread over a wide area, consider replacing complete frames.


From cold, a hot air stripper will take anything up to a minute to reach its full working temperature so plan your work to try to keep the gun running where safe to do so.


Paint timber doors, window frames, skirting and trims

Prime woodwork indoors with a standard primer, working along the grain. Sand smooth when dry. Outside, apply Wickes’ Exterior Gloss over Wickes’ Exterior Primer Undercoat, which is designed to allow timber to breathe, expand and contract. A separate undercoat is not required.


Undercoat (if needed), allow to dry then gently wipe clean with a damp cloth.


Topcoat should be applied along the grain, brushing it out across the grain. Finish with light strokes along the grain again. Apply two relatively thin layers of topcoat rather than one thick one; over brushing will leave a very thin film of paint, a thick coat will show signs of sagging on vertical surfaces or puddling on horizontal ones. For exterior woodwork, ensure sill ends and undersides are covered to prevent moisture penetration.


Paint a flush door in much the same way as you would a wall but working with smaller squares.


Paint panelled doors, starting with the panels, then the frame members, working from the top down (see Fig. 3).


Paint sash windows by opening the sashes to reach all accessible surfaces. Reverse the sashes to finish (see Fig. 4).


Paint casement windows hinged casement first, then frame and sill. Repeat the sequence outdoors (see Fig. 5).


Paint a radiator only when it is cold. Use a radiator roller (or mini roller) to paint the wall behind, then use a fine brush to apply the paint from the top of the panel and pipework to the bottom, rather than across. Allow the paint to harden thoroughly before turning the heat back on.